You don't have to go to Tikal to visit a Mayan sacred site. Thery are found all over Guatemala,Lake Atitlan and along the Pacific coast. Authentic ceremonies are still performed at these sites by contemporary Maya.
There are several around Lake Atitlan, and ruins of pre-Spanish cities. Three are situated in the Santiago area. On the Pacific coast, there are sites at Takalik Abaj, El Baul and others, and a museum at La Democracia with the giant Olmec stone heads.
Cerro de Oro: "Hill of Gold"
Cerro de Oro, close to San Lucas, is the result of volcanic eruptions and is the site of a cave that has been sealed off. Legends say the Maya buried all their gold when the Spanish approached, but it has never been found. This site dates back as far as the Pre-Classic.
Authentic Mayan ceremonies take place here on special days in the 260-day Sacred Calendar. It is an easy trek up the hill and the view from the top is magnificent. Ceramic incense stands and other ceremonial artifacts have been found offshore and can be seen at the Museo Lacustre in Panajachel and Tzunun Ya in San Pedro.
You can reach Cerro Oro by bus or boat from Santiago, San Pedro or Panajachel, but to get the most out of the trip, use a guide. In Santiago, the top hotel is Posada de Santiago, which also has an excellent restaurant, a pool and sauna.
Chuitinamit: Pyramids and Altars
Chuitinamit is across the inlet from Santiago. It was established by Putun-Itza Maya who migrated to Guatemala around 1250 AD, but they were soon chased off by the Tzu'tujil, who built most of the structures of this fortified city. Originally it was called Chiya but is now known by the name of the hill it is on, is an acropolis with an altar and the ruins of several structures, including two small pyramids. (see drawing) None have been restored.
The two-hour uphill hike is more of an Indiana Jones-style adventure than the others. Chuitinamit is on private property, so a guide is needed to reach the ruins.
Other Ancient Mayan Sites and Ruins at Lake Atitlan
In San Pedro, there is a sacred cave high on the hill over the Pana dock. San Juan has a sacred site called Grandfather Rock. Many others exist but their locations remain secret. In the hills above Santiago, a Tzu'tujil Maya site called Rey Tepepul was declared an international sacred site in 2012.
Guides and Tours
Tornado Tours runs day-trips to Cerro de Oro and other sites from San Pedro and has English- and Spanish-speaking guides. In Guatemala, call 5634-1393, or look up Domingo Chavajay on Facebook.
New Book About Mayan Astrology from Guatemala
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